15. Editorial Note

On January 7, 1959, the Operations Coordinating Board considered a report submitted by the Board Assistants on Soviet-Dominated Nations in Eastern Europe. This was essentially a six-month progress report on NSC 5811/1 (Document 6). The report consisted of a “Summary Evaluation” and a section on “Major Operating Problems and Difficulties Facing the United States.” The general conclusions in the “Summary Evaluation” were the following:

“Despite Soviet efforts to enforce rigid ideological conformity and to tighten party discipline within the Soviet bloc, Soviet vulnerabilities in the area—including such factors as the degree of liberalization in Poland, the disruptive influence on the bloc of the Yugoslav ideological heresy and of Yugoslavia’s position as an independent Communist state, and the failure of the Soviet Union and the bloc regimes to establish a broad base of popular support in the dominated countries—remain evident. The resulting atmosphere of change and ferment in the dominated nations, although recently subject to stronger corrective measures by the Communist authorities, continues to afford moderate opportunities over a long term for the United States to advance its policy objectives, including entering into more active relations with the dominated regimes in order to project U.S. influence in these countries more effectively. The refusal of the United States to recognize the domination of these nations by the USSR as an acceptable status quo and the U.S. view that the people of each nation should be independent and free to choose their form of government have helped to keep alive the hopes and aspirations of these peoples; however, this position has not brought about a modification of Soviet policy favorable to U.S. objectives. It is difficult to demonstrate or evaluate, on a short-run basis, the effects of continuing U.S. efforts to exploit Soviet bloc vulnerabilities; some evidence of success, however, is indicated in continued Soviet sensitiveness to such activities.” (Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Soviet Satellites—II)

According to a memorandum of January 7 from Jeremiah J. O’Connor of the OCB Staff to Merchant, in which O’Connor quoted an excerpt from his informal and preliminary notes on the discussion at the OCB meeting that day, most of the discussion of the paper revolved around developments in East-West exchanges since NSC 5811/1 had been approved. Vice Chairman Karl G. Harr noted that reading the paper reflected a “great feeling of quietude” after the Hungarian revolt. Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles said that this was not the case in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and he thought Soviet efforts in those countries had probably “slowed up” Albert W. Sherer, Officer in Charge of Polish, Baltic, and Czechoslovak Affairs, commented that in Poland it was more a matter of some “accommodation” having been reached between Khrushchev and Gomulka. The Board approved the report for transmittal to the National Security Council. (Ibid., USSR & Satellites—General—1959–60)